Brown Bag Series

Re-modeling Gunnison Sage-grouse Habitat

This series presenters are

  • Andrew Breibart, Hydrologist, Bureau of Land Management, Gunnison Field Office
  • Matt Vasquez, Wildlife Biologist, Grand Mesa Uncompahgre Gunnison National Forests-Gunnison Ranger District

When functional, meadows function like sponges as they capture precipitation; allowing it to slowly infiltrate; store it as groundwater; and slowly release it to maintain base flow and peak flow conditions.  In the Upper Gunnison River Basin, gully erosion, headcuts, and incision altered the hydrological function of these systems. 

Causes include historic wagon roads, primitive roads, mining, road crossings, and current and past livestock and wildlife trailing which have disrupted natural surface and groundwater runoff and infiltration processes.  The Gunnison Climate Working, a collaborative group, comprised of youth corps, federal land managers, county and municipal governments, state wildlife agencies, universities, private landowners, and NGO’s work across fence lines to restore 100s of acres of mesic meadows using techniques developed by Bill Zeedyk. 

Benefits of restored meadows include functional brood-rearing habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse, a Federally Threatened species; and healthy habitat for elk, amphibians, neo-tropical migratory birds; reliable sources of forage for domestic livestock; and resilient ecosystems considering global weirding.  This partnership hopes to expand its capacity and continues to bring additional support and partners. 

In 2019, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies recognized this partnership with the Climate Change Adaptation Award and USDA Forest Service awarded the group the 2019 Wings Across the Americas: Habitat Partnership Award.